Control and instrument panels are a perfect fit for our zero-tooling CNC machining and digital graphics printing process. The reason being that they usually require precise cutouts of various shapes and sizes and crisp and wear resistant labels and graphics.
The materials of choice are ABS , PC/ABS, PC , marine grade HDPE and ACM (aluminum composite materials). These materials are available in a variety of gauges, colors and textures which means that no painting or powder coating is required. Furthermore these polymers are not affected by corrosive environments and stand up well to common cleaning agents, fuels, oils and other chemicals.
As far as ACMs are concerned they offer an excellent stiffness-to-weight-ratio which makes these composites a great choice for larger panels and applications where weight-reduction is a primary concern. For this reason ACMs are commonly used in aviation and RVs. ACMs are also popular for their aesthetic appeal since they are available in a variety of brushed and anodized finishes. This aluminum look is also often employed to “dress up” front panels of audio/video and other broadcasting and PA equipment.
We use a high-resolution digital graphics flatbed printer to directly print on these substrates with UV-cured and highly wear-resistant “inks”. The “ink” really is a UV-curable polymer that penetrates the surface and is “baked” onto the substrate so to speak. The result is a slightly raised, high-contrast, photo-quality print which allows the use of the full color palette and also shades and half tones to create opaque and translucent effects. Even raised Braille lettering can be accomplished in this fashion. These prints will stand up to outdoor use and high-touch, high-abrasion applications such as construction equipment, truck dashboards and marine consoles.
Lastly, reverse printing creates some unique visual effects and offers the ultimate in print protection. “Reverse” in this case means that the print is applied on the backside of a clear material and that the layers are printed in reverse order. This means the print is not exposed to the environment and will remain legible even if the surface facing outward is soiled or scratched. The visual effect of having the print behind a clear surface is that it creates a high-gloss appearance and makes colors “pop”. This is often desirable for game consoles and other consumer products.